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Rebecca – Interview with Leslie Travers

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Read more on Rebecca – Interview with Leslie Travers from the Kneehigh Cookbook archive.

Is this the first show you have designed for Emma Rice?

I have never worked with Emma before but I have seen lots of her work with Kneehigh. I love the way she works and the techniques that she has developed with Kneehigh. They are an extremely visual company that uses lots of storytelling in their visual landscape. They have a very unique way of bringing images together. There is a really strong sense of storytelling in their work and, as a designer, it really appeals to me. As they create settings they are very careful about the choices of elements they use; they create atmosphere through the use of space. I have always been drawn to them.

I’m very excited as I do a lot of opera work for big international houses and big spaces that often require [a] big scenic element, so it’s exciting to work in a different way and be allowed to bring some of my world into the Kneehigh/Emma Rice experience.

Tell us about the design process.

It all started last summer on an overnight sleeper train from London to Cornwall, arriving at dawn at St Austell. I remember waking up and seeing the Tamar River and valley full of boats and water. That was the point when I started working on the piece.

We jumped into workshops with actors, so we would spend days trying things out with the script, talking it through in a very organic way. I could have easily felt like an observer but Emma’s process does not allow for sitting on the sidelines, so I was very involved with the show. The show is constantly being refined and new ideas are always been tried out.

The Theatre Royal Plymouth has started building the set today. Some things have been decided, however new and exciting ideas will continue to come out of the rehearsals.

What challenges have you faced in designing this show?

All good design is about challenges and about tackling them. We need to tell the story in the right way and ensure that the creative world has cohesion. My time in Cornwall has strongly influenced the work as it reflects the landscape of the story. The workshop period was the key time and I was able to speak with Emma Rice alone and discuss what I had seen that day.

What has inspired you to create the designs?

Although the production is very filmic it has nothing to do with the film and is very much based on the book. Emma (Rice) has gone through the book again and again and created her own multi-location story. It moves around in very dramatic places and the way we create these locations will, I hope, be very surprising.

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